Auburn Softball Takes Series in Knoxville
Chardonnay Harris pitched her first career shutout in the Tennessee series. (photo: Auburn media file)
The series against sixth-ranked Tennessee almost didn’t happen for the Auburn Tigers. First, just getting on campus seemed to be an insurmountable task. The Tigers went through multiple charter buses that kept breaking down on the road to Knoxville. Then, impending weather disrupted the series, forcing the two teams to play game one on Saturday and a double header on Sunday. Even between games two and three, lightening delays pushed the start of the final game later and later in the day. By the time game three began, the Tigers had to be a little fatigued and a lot uncomfortable.
The Vols had their field house and access to showers and clean uniforms between the games, but the Tigers had to spend the down time in the dugout wearing the same uniforms for hours upon hours. The wear and tear of the grind showed in game three as Auburn just didn’t have enough left in the tank to play. The third game wasn’t quite meaningless, but it was close. In games one and two Auburn dominated the Volunteers to the tune of 10–5 and 3–0, securing a series win.
Along the way, there was a shakeup at the top of the SEC standings. Auburn came into the weekend down the SEC leader board. Alabama was at the top with a record of 7–2 in the conference and was taking on South Carolina. Behind them was Tennessee. Auburn was down the food trough.
By weekend’s end, Auburn was on top tied with Alabama. Had Alabama not salvaged game three against the Gamecocks and Auburn not given away its game three, the Tigers would be alone at the top. Still, the series win against the Vols was huge.
However, SEC rankings, especially at the top of the conference, aren’t that important. Ten of the nation’s Top 25 teams reside in the SEC. NCAA rankings haven’t been updated this week, and the last rankings are from on the 25th of last month. It will be interesting to see how Auburn fares in the poll after losing a series to UGA last week at home before taking this one against the Vols.
It was the Snow Show this weekend. Tannon Snow was incredible at the plate for the Tigers in the first two games, willing them to wins. She was 4-for-4 in game one with two homers while scoring an insane SEVEN RBI’s. That ties the record held by former Auburn great, Kasey Cooper. It was Snow’s second multi-homer game.
Ashlee Swindle earned the win after a lightening-fast leash was pulled on Lexi Handley. The transfer hurler can hit 72 miles an hour with her fastball, but she can also mail a lot of pitches to the backstop. Coach Mickey Dean saw enough after two walks, both of which were followed by wild pitches.
Swindle went the distance though she did …
give up seven hits and three runs, not counting two scores from inherited base runners. Ashlee added two strikeouts as the defense played error-free ball behind her. She is a pitch-to-contact player. She may not get K’s and she may give up hits, but as long as the defense is on its game, she will earn a lot of W’s.
As good as Swindle was at getting the Vols to hit to Tiger defenders, Chardonnay Harris was just as good in game two. Harris was phenomenal in a shutout win, a program first against Tennessee. She had seven strikeouts and scattered four hits with just one walk. The complete game was the first of her young and promising career.
Snow added another dinger in game two while Kendall Veach joined in with one of her own. Alyssa Rivera earned an RBI the hard way when she scored pinch runner Rachel Cook on a single. The Tigers took a 3–0 win for the series win, which helps avenge the home series loss to Georgia last weekend. It was the first Tiger win in Knoxville since 2011.
Game three was a clunker for the Tigers after having to wait an hour for weather to pass. Swindle was back in the circle for the Tigers, but the defense couldn’t back her up. The Volunteer slappers put in a good day’s work against the Auburn defense, which simply could not handle Tennessee’s speed. Swindle did her best to limit the Vols’ power hitters by jamming them inside time and time again. However, the lefty slappers proved tough to get out as they hit multiple balls up the middle, and others simply eluded Tiger defenders.
The pressure on the base paths plus the slappers’ crafty hitting forced Auburn’s defense, specifically shortstop Taylon Snow, into a lot of bad fielder’s choices. Tennessee jumped on Auburn with two scores in the first and never looked back.
Auburn’s lone run came on a fine piece of hitting by Alyssa Rivera. She forced the Vols’ pitcher into a mistake from a second meatball in consecutive pitches. Rivera missed the first, showed frustration, but caught the next one perfectly, homering for the eighth time this season.
Chardonnay Harris made her second appearance but couldn’t stop the Vols from blasting the Tigers 8–1 in the final game of the weekend. Auburn had just two other hits, both of them by pinch hitters Carmyn Greenwood and Makenna Dowel.
Despite the bad series against UGA and the messy game three in Knoxville, Auburn is showing great strides at the plate over last season. Though some of the starters have a long way to go, the top six hitters are hitting above a .300 clip. And Justus Perry has a .500 slugging percentage despite a .276 batting average.
That’s not to say that Auburn doesn’t have nine great hitters on the roster. The issue is that Auburn’s best hitters aren’t also Auburn’s best fielders. Coach Dean just has to find the perfect combination. The Tigers have hit 55 dingers in the season and are on pace to rival the golden years under Clint Myers.
The Tigers host a South Carolina team fresh off of a massive series win against the Crimson Tide. Games one and two will be on the SEC Network+ while game three will be on ESPNU. The series kicks off Friday at Jane B. Moore at 6:00 PM CDT. See ya there!